Shantelle Wright joining D.C. Public Charter School Board

Charter school watchers in the nation’s capital have been puzzled by the lack of nominations to the DC Public Charter School Board by Mayor Muriel Bowser. The board is down to three out of seven members, with Rick Cruz’s term coming to an end. Well, it appears that the six-month wait for names to be announced is finally over. The board revealed the other day that there are three people up for D.C. Council confirmation.

The most shocking individual on the list is none other than Shantelle Wright. Ms. Wright is of course well known to the local movement. She is the founder and previously long-term chief executive officer of Achievement Prep PCS. During her tenure at Achievement Prep, it was common for Ms. Wright to offer highly emotionally charged comments critical of the PCSB, especially in regard to the views of former executive director Scott Pearson. She has been part of a segment of charter school stakeholders, best represented by attorney Stephen Marcus, that believe that the Performance Management Framework which is used to grade charters in Washington, D.C., is biased against at-risk children. Achievement Prep serves a large proportion of students living in poverty.

However, as I reported in April, 2018, at an event marking the first ten years of operation of Achievement Prep, Ms. Wright seemed to have a change of heart. Here are my observations:

“In her speech, Ms. Wright admitted that mistakes at the school had been made and that most recently it has not been serving the children of Ward 8 according to its mission ‘to prepare students to excel as high-achieving scholars and leaders in high school, college, and beyond.’  She explained that Achievement Prep had grown too fast, an expansion that has resulted in the school’s Wahler Place elementary, serving pupils in pre-Kindergarten three to third grade, being ranked Tier 3 school on the DC PCSB’s Performance Management Framework for the last two years. Its Wahler Place Middle school, enrolling grades four through eight, has earned a grade as barely a Tier 2 facility over the same time period.  In 2013 and 2014 this campus’ quality school report placed it at Tier 1.  During the November meeting of the DC PCSB, the elementary school campus was given strict PMF targets it will have to meet in coming years or it will be closed.”

Achievement Prep closed the Wahler Place Middle School at the end of the 2019-to-2020 school year. This facility was taken over by Friendship PCS.

During the same ceremony, Mr. Pearson expressed his admiration for Ms. Wright:

“In comments that were especially animated for my friend, he related that during the many tense confrontations he has had with her over the years regarding differences of opinion, he has always loved the persona of Ms. Wright.”

It will be fascinating to see the direction that the PMF takes with Ms. Wright on the board. The DC PCSB has announced that the PMF is in the process of being revised.

Others nominated to the board include Shukurat Adamoh-Faniyan, who was once executive director of the now shuttered Democracy Prep PCS and who is now executive director of Reading Partners, a group working to increase literacy, and Nick Rodriquez, CEO at Delivery Associates who once served on the California Board of Education. Both individuals have extensive experience trying to close the academic achievement gap and therefore will be easily approved by the Council. Current PCSB chair Lea Crusey has also been re-nominated.

You can read current PCSB executive director Dr. Michelle Walker-Davis’s testimony in favor of these nominations here. I now cannot wait to once again tune into the monthly PCSB meetings. I promise, they will not be boring.

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